“Beware the Pitfalls of ‘Distancing Language’ in Development Proposals” A Guest Post by Professor Jenny Bell Jones

This was not going to be the subject of my next blog post but a recent observation pushed it to the top of the list. As proposed development of the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), also known as the birthing ground of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, moves forward I am noticing a very disturbing trend. More and more people in leadership positions (our Congressional Delegation and Governor Walker in particular) are not only referring to the birthing grounds as “the 1002’; they are no longer even using the acronym ANWR to describe the location of this oil and gas development. This use of distancing language is of grave concern because the term “1002’ is so far removed from what is actually in question, land, animals and people, as to be completely meaningless to all but the tiny number of people who have actually read the part of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) that 1002 refers to. When “1002’ is used instead of ANWR  those who knew what ANWR stood for, and were therefore perhaps somewhat concerned about its future, will no longer make the connection that this development is going to take place in an extremely fragile location inside a wildlife refuge.

Throughout history distancing language has been a very powerful tool of colonialism. Indigenous Peoples were called “savages’ and could then be treated with less (or often no) respect and empathy. Native place names were changed and in turn those places lost the respect that they had commanded because their true names, which told important things about their history and purpose, had been erased. Racial labels were applied to different groups that allowed other groups to feel superior and that sense of superiority (and the fear of losing it) translated into support for exclusion laws, fascism, apartheid, and Jim Crow laws along with many other examples of dehumanizing regimes that harmed entire groups of people.

The weapon of colonial language diversions is still in use all around us today. Animals and birds are no longer living beings but rather they are now “natural resources’. Your home is “an investment’ rather than the place where you live and raise a family and therefore something you might lose because investments fail. “Natural resource extraction’ has taken the place of less palatable but much clearer words like “mining’ or “oil drilling’. Employees are now “human resources’ which makes it easier to disregard their needs as people. This list could be much longer but the underlying dehumanization is clearly there.

Can we dehumanize something that isn’t actually human such as an important area of land like the birthing grounds in the ANWR? If we take the viewpoint that all animals are equal in having needs, and that includes the human species of animals, we can see that dehumanizing may be too narrow but it is the best word we have to get started. If we take concern for life and place out of an equation by eliminating important information from the calculation it makes it oh so much easier to destroy life and place and that kind of action has a dehumanizing effect on us all. Calling something other than what it really is has allowed all sorts of evil to take place around the world. Perhaps we cannot actually dehumanize something that is not human but we can certainly help people to think about it in ways that will provide the same outcomes as dehumanization if we allow them to reduce something as complex and vibrant as the birthing ground of a very large caribou herd to four numbers.

How do we fight back? By politely but firmly demanding that the correct language be used so that everyone is properly informed, and always making sure we use it ourselves. Congress has decided to allow drilling in an environmentally sensitive area of a National Wildlife Refuge which is critically important to many species of birds and wildlife and especially to the Porcupine Caribou Herd which calves there on an annual basis. This is what they have said they want to do and this is how it should be presented to the public. They cannot be allowed to slide out of this by miss-informing the public. Whether it can be done “safely’ or “responsibly’ or “without environmental damage’ remains to be seen. We are not discussing that here. What we are discussing is the need for the public to be properly informed as to the location. “1002’ is meaningless in this regard.

Responsible development requires transparency at every step of the process. If a mine is going to use cyanide as part of its ore processing procedure it cannot just say it will use “chemicals’; the general public does not know enough about mining to make the connection with cyanide. If a development is going to create jobs the public needs to know “how many’, “for whom’ and for “how long’; just saying “jobs will be created’ obscures reality. Builders of a road must be clear about where they intend to put it; they cannot just say it will join up points A and B with no consideration of the route. Proponents of development in the ANWR have promised that it will be done responsibly; they need to begin with honest descriptions of where the development is going to take place so that the American public can make informed decisions about whether or not they support this. “The 1002’ is not an honest description of the birthing ground of the Porcupine Caribou Herd.

“‘Strengthening Sovereign Responses to Sex Trafficking Conference’ and Our Alaska Native Community” a guest post by Rural Development MA student Cordelia Kellie

Over 300 people gathered January 30-31 in Palm Springs, California to convene at the first annual Strengthening Sovereign Responses to Sex Trafficking in Indian Country conference, on the traditional land of the Agua Caliente peoples. Alaska Native and American Indian community and tribal representatives met with federal agencies, advocates, survivors, sexual assault experts and other national and federal partners from across Native nations, including Alaska.

The organization hosting was the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition (MIWSAC), which shared the story about how years ago, they started hearing anecdotes of sex trafficking in their state; they collected those stories and it became the basis of their research into the topic published in Garden of Truth (2011). Now MIWSAC is one of the leading Native organizations working to end sex trafficking. Also known as human trafficking or modern slavery, sex trafficking is the use of force, coercion, or manipulation for commercial sexual exploitation. Traffickers target a community’s most vulnerable and there are a variety of areas of susceptibility.

When we think of labels, we self-organize conceptually. We put people and things in boxes. We organize the state in our mind as those who are sex trafficked and those who are not sex trafficked, with all our friends, family and acquaintances — seemingly everyone we know — being the latter.

Sex traffickers don’t think that way; they don’t see someone in the box of “not trafficked’, and decide not to touch them. All they see is vulnerability, and too many of our Alaska Native and rural community members are the target.

Is there anyone who might come to mind that you know who may lack a social safety net? Someone under duress from economic hardship? What about someone emotionally vulnerable, suffering from low self-esteem and self-worth, or someone who just needs to get by and has suffered from abuse before? One of the informational focuses of the conference is being able to see the shades of trafficking, and breaking down those conceptual boxes.

Because in those terms, names may come to mind. In these scenarios, those who find themselves, for example, intimidated into performing a sex act so they have a place to stay also might not think of themselves using the term “trafficked,’ but they are. Maybe some think their trafficker is their boyfriend or girlfriend; their trafficker could be a family member. The lack of awareness about sex trafficking in our state is such that many might not be able to identify themselves as being trafficked, or even what that is, or may not be in a position to connect to resources. People often just call it, “the life.’

At the conference, advocates, service providers, government and law enforcement officials and many more were able to learn about the most pressing needs to prevent trafficking and how to support survivors, hearing from survivors themselves. One survivor shared that she honestly didn’t think she was trafficked, she just thought that it was just her way of surviving and having a measure of control.

A representative from Covenant House Alaska spoke at a plenary session about how specifically Alaska Native girls get lured to the city with the promise of a living situation and a job, to find out that it’s not what they thought it would be. Sometimes girls in “the life’ might recruit other girls, like cousins or friends. Some might even find it to be of equal challenges to the struggles faced in their home communities.

But just as the issue was shared and discussed by national experts working in this field, so were solutions.

We know that indigenous women have been sexually exploited on this continent for hundreds of years, as a way to break down Native social structures and institute patriarchy. Modern sex trafficking is a symptom of colonization, and protecting and growing a strong social fabric is part of the work of decolonization. Every community member has a role in being a strong advocate to those in our sphere, and we all have a role in reweaving that social fabric where it is ripped, weak, torn or frayed.

There is a very real need for resources for safe housing, shelters and spaces in our communities so that people wanting to escape a bad situation are able to do so. There is a need for awareness for what our cousins are doing, what our nieces’ lives look like, or if our friends are truly okay. And there needs to be education in our industries and in transportation, of what to look for and what to do if someone suspects a person is being trafficked.

They say in Alaska that everyone knows everyone. If you’re Native, you’re doubly all related.

That goes for Alaska’s most vulnerable, because they are our family members. Ending sex trafficking in Alaska — it is on all of us to be good relatives.

What is “Responsible’ Development?* A Guest Post by Professor Jenny Bell Jones

There has been a lot of talk about “responsible development’ in Alaska recently. The Pebble Limited Partnership assured the public they will develop a “responsible’ plan for the mine.[1] The Alaska Delegation repeat the mantra that oil and gas development in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) will be “responsible development’. U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, just announced the “next step for responsibly developing the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program) for 2019-2024‘.[2] Can we believe that the inclusion of responsibility will make these development projects acceptable?

If the justification for allowing development is down to paring it with responsibility we need to examine and understand what this actually means. What is “responsible development’, who does it and who holds them responsible to what standards? How far does responsibility extend?

Insisting that development will be “responsible’ allows everyone to walk away feeling good about the future. “We’ will do this “responsibly’ so everything will be OK. There will be no negative impacts on the environment or the wildlife that lives there because we will be responsible. People who never supported that development before can now feel comfortable. People who live far away will sleep easier knowing that only responsible development will take place in those remote pristine locations they value so highly but will likely never visit. Really though, should anyone be so complacent … should anyone actually believe that if responsible is hyphenated with development everything will be OK?

I worked in heavy industry for over twenty-five years and must question why we are suddenly talking about “responsible development’ when it has been my observation that most if not all industrial developers in this country already believe they are working responsibly. The discussion about developments  such as ANWR drilling and Pebble Mine is not and should not have ever been about whether development will be responsible; it is about whether development should take place at all. For many years that was the focus of the argument and those who wanted to preserve the Refuge for its intended purpose were the winners because they held the stronger position. Rational people, including people like myself who were generally pro-development, understood that, no matter how responsibly people worked, there were risks inherent to industrial development that we simply should not take in some places. The Refuge is one of those places and the addition of responsibility has not changed that.

Ordinary citizens behave responsibly in response to something; a law, a custom, a social norm, a duty to family or community. We have a moral and/or legal obligation to behave correctly towards something or in respect of it.[3] Often we behave responsibly absent anything actually requiring us to do so; we may return lost items or assist strangers because we believe it is the “right’ thing to do and not doing the right thing would be irresponsible. How does this translate into responsibility for an industrial developer … to whom or what are they being held responsible and who is doing the holding?

Developers are held responsible to the laws and regulations of the jurisdiction where they are developing, and compliance will depend on the strength of the rule of law in that jurisdiction. They may be involved in activities related to “corporate social responsibility’ (CSR), but when it comes down to implementation of projects they will do what is required for legal compliance and no more. They will not be doing the corporate equivalent of voluntarily returning lost items or assisting strangers in the course of their development projects because nothing requires this, and doing so could even be construed as irresponsible use of assets by self-interested shareholders. To the contrary, if there is an accident or a broken law, corporations will be looking for ways to divest themselves of as much responsibility as possible as quickly as they can in order to protect their interest and those of their shareholders. We might examine how long Exxon spent fighting liability for the damages incurred by Alaskan coastal communities after the 1989 oil spill[4] or the way in which British Petroleum (BP) limited its responsibility (and billed the U.S. public by deducting court expenses as ordinary business costs on tax returns) after the Deepwater Horizon deep water drilling blow-out in 2010[5] to see how corporations address responsibility when an accident happens.

If the issue of direct responsibility for accidents is not enough to make us rethink development activities in areas where proper response is difficult or impossible, there is also the question of extended responsibility for things like climate change and air pollution resulting from the burning of the fossil fuels. When the Native Village of Kivalina brought federal suit[6] against multiple industrial defendants in 2008 in an effort to hold the industries responsible for their contributions to global warming, the suit failed. None of the defendants admitted any responsibility for the damage in Kivalina. More recently in 2017, three cases were filed in California state court that “seek to hold major fossil fuel companies liable for the effects of sea level rise they allege to be caused by climate change.’[7] Most current, in January 2018, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a lawsuit against five major oil companies that will seek to collect damages to pay for the cost of dealing with the effects of climate change on the City.[8] These suits seek to hold corporations responsible for the damage caused by the use of their products rather than any damage caused by extraction and it remains to be seen whether the courts will find that their responsibility extends that far.

Climate change is not the only area where responsibility should be questioned. Two new 2017 studies, from Imperial College, London, and UNICEF, “Impact of London’s road traffic air and noise pollution on birth weight: retrospective population based cohort study’[9] and “Danger in the Air: How air pollution can affect brain development in young children’[10] discuss the dangers that air pollution presents to unborn children. According to the Guardian, the studies found: “Air pollution significantly increases the risk of low birth weight in babies, leading to lifelong damage to health, according to a large new study. The research was conducted in London, UK, but its implications for many millions of women in cities around the world with far worse air pollution are “something approaching a public health catastrophe’, the doctors involved said. Globally, two billion children — 90% of all children — are exposed to air pollution above World Health Organization guidelines. A Unicef study also published on Wednesday found that 17 million babies suffer air six times more toxic than the guidelines.‘[11] Which companies, we must ask, will voluntarily admit responsibility for damage to unborn babies that results from the use of their products?

There is no real answer to what constitutes responsible development but one thing we know is that it will result in changes to the landscape and for the inhabitants. It also, in the case of minerals extraction, results in products that contribute in large amounts to human and environmental damage whether development is conducted responsibly or not. What do we really expect here from a “responsible’ company? Can we expect them to voluntarily restrict activities that will contribute to long term damage to the environment if no laws require them to do so? If we want to keep the bar for responsibility high we need to keep laws and regulations in place requiring this.

Responsible does not mean small; a very large development can be conducted in compliance with the law. Responsible has nothing to do with jobs; new projects do not require job creation. Responsible does not mean accident free; it means companies will make reasonable efforts towards prevention. It is unlikely that BP would admit to being irresponsible in their management of the Deepwater Horizon.  Trans Canada, the owner-operator of Keystone pipeline that leaked 210,000 gallons of oil in November 2017[12] is not going to say they were being irresponsible in their maintenance of the line. If there is any “irresponsible’ behavior found it will be up to a judge in a court room to find it. The companies will say they were doing everything they were supposed to and the problem is, they are probably correct. This is why it is so important to question just what exactly the standard of responsibility is when a company is involved in development and make sure those standards are not reduced.

The Story of the Kulluk

For an Alaskan example of responsibility gone awry we can examine the grounding of the Kulluk offshore drilling unit while in transit from Unalaska to Seattle for repairs in December 2012. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Marine Accident Brief provides some information about responsible parties:

  • Tow master, on board the Kulluk’•overall responsibility for controlling the movement of the Kulluk and operation of all assisting vessels during the tow, from unmooring in Alaska to mooring in Washington state, as well as interfacing with the Kulluk crew and other personnel
  • Offshore installation manager (OIM), on board the Kulluk’•in command of the Kulluk
  • Shell’s Alaska marine manager’•Shell shoreside manager, located in Anchorage; oversight responsibility for planning and managing Kulluk rig moves
  • Aiviq master–in command of the dedicated tow vessel and its crew; legally responsible for the tow once the towline was made fast and the vessels were under way[13]

And: “The towing plan was developed by Shell’s Alaska marine manager and reviewed by the Aiviq master, the Shell Alaska operations manager, Alaska drilling manager, logistics team lead, health safety and environmental team lead, emergency response specialist, tow master, Noble Drilling Kulluk rig manager and operations manager for Alaska, and the GL Noble Denton warranty surveyor. The Shell Alaska operations manager was the final approval authority. Because he was on vacation at the time the tow plan was approved, a subordinate whom he had designated approved the tow plan in his place.’[14]

The NTSB Brief indicates that “The series of failures that led to this accident began when Shell failed to fully address the risks associated with a late December tow in Alaskan waters, and ended with the grounding of the Kulluk. Although multiple parties were involved in the review and approval of the tow plan, the ultimate decision to approve and implement the tow was Shell’s. The dynamics of a single entity approving a go/no-go decision in the face of risks, with multiple parties involved, have been addressed in studies of previous catastrophic events. This research demonstrates that, even with formal review processes involving multiple entities, the ability of parties involved in a decision to articulate and draw attention to risks is limited when a single entity bears ultimate decision-making responsibility and at the same time favors a particular outcome of the decision. For this reason, Shell, as the organization responsible for designing, approving, and implementing the tow plan, is considered to be ultimately responsible for this accident.’[15]

The Kulluk incident (in which there was no loss of life and no environmental damage) indicates that, even when many people involved are trying to be responsible accidents still happen. The Brief states “The potential hazards facing the transit were known. The day after departure, the Aiviq master wrote an e-mail to the Kulluk tow master stating, in part, “I believe that this length of tow, at this time of year, in this location, with our current routing guarantees an ***kicking.’[16] None of the responsible parties stopped the tow.  Also of concern when we think about responsibility is the reason for the tow to Seattle; “Shipyard capabilities and equipment in the Seattle area were deemed more suitable for performing the Kulluk’s planned maintenance and repairs than facilities available in Alaska,…’[17] Is Alaska being irresponsible in encouraging offshore drilling activities when insufficient support infrastructure for maintenance and repair exists in the State?

Will companies volunteer responsibility?

Examining the track records of companies in other countries may also help us evaluate future responsibility. CSR may be prominent in the public relations materials on a corporate website but how are they actually behaving in other jurisdictions? Are they taking the moral high ground and conducting business the way we would want them to here, or are they involved in corrupt business practices because they can get away with it or because that is “normal’ in that country. The oil and gas industry lobbied to have the Trump administration repeal a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulation requiring oil and mining companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments in February 2017.[18] This action reversed much needed anti-corruption reforms regarding how the mining and oil and gas industries do international business and allows them to hide payments to national governments.

In case we think this would not concern us in Alaska let us remember that these multinational companies are doing business here. In November 2017 the Trump administration issued Eni US, a unit of Italy’s Eni, a permit to explore for oil from an artificial island in the Beaufort Sea.[19] ENI has a corporate governance section on its U.S. website and cites “integrity and transparency’ as their key principles.[20] The site makes no mention of ENI’s current involvement as a defendant on trial in Milan, Italy, against charges of corruption over a $1.3 billion oil deal in Nigeria together with Royal Dutch Shell.[21]  While the outcome of the case may find both companies to be innocent of illegal dealings in Nigeria, their ongoing involvement in locations where corruption is the norm might raise some questions about the company’s commitment to integrity and transparency. Can we really expect companies that hide behind the “that is how they do business here’ excuse when accused of involvement in corrupt practices elsewhere to behave responsibly here unless laws make it very clear that they must? In the Kulluk incident, the NTSB Brief indicated that Shell might have incurred millions of dollars in state property tax had the Kulluk remained in Alaska into 2013.[22] Was Shell choosing responsibility to its bottom line over responsibility to the environment and the crews of the Kulluk and Aivik? They were not breaking any laws by proceeding with the tow.

If we are to be truly responsible to land and wildlife we will not allow industrial development in some locations at all. If we are responsible … and honest … we must admit that oil spills and industrial accidents are a part of the industry and, no matter how responsible companies are, they will happen. Down-stream effects of oil and gas development are inevitable; do we want to live with those? Some examples such as ocean plastics[23], ocean acidification[24] and severe air pollution[25] may be life threatening; do we want to make that choice?

If “responsibility’ does not eliminate spills and accidents, does not control size, guarantee jobs, or reduce pollution, and does not protect against corruption, then any development that takes place in ANWR will be business as usual, just like any other development. Is that what we want?

 *Parts of this article were published in abbreviated form in the January 21st edition of the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer Community Perspectives entitled “Examining ‘Responsible Development’ of ANWR’

[1] Harball, Elizabeth. With new life under Trump administration, fresh Pebble Mine details released. Alaska Public Media. January 5th 2018 https://www.alaskapublic.org/2018/01/05/with-new-life-under-trump-administration-fresh-pebble-mine-details-released/

[2] Secretary Zinke Announces Plan For Unleashing America’s Offshore Oil and Gas Potential. U.S. Dept. of Interior Press Release January 4th 2018. https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases/secretary-zinke-announces-plan-unleashing-americas-offshore-oil-and-gas-potential

[3] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/responsibility

[4]Rosen, Yereth. Exxon Valdez oil spill saga reaches anticlimactic end in federal court. Anchorage Daily News. October 15th 2015.  https://www.adn.com/environment/article/exxon-valdez-saga-reaches-anticlimatic-end-federal-court/2015/10/16/

[5] Laursen, Wendy. Winners and Losers in Deepwater Horizon Payout. The Maritime Executive. April 5th 2016 https://maritime-executive.com/article/winners-and-losers-in-deepwater-horizon-payout

[6] Native Village of Kivalina v. Exxon Mobil Corporation et al. 696 F.3d 849 (2012)

[7] https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=0ffacf4b-0828-4dab-8675-1d0ab3670f2e

[8] Neuman, William. To Fight Climate Change, New York City Takes On Oil Companies. January 10th 2018 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/10/nyregion/new-york-city-fossil-fuel-divestment.html?_r=0

[9] Toledano, Mireille B et all. Impact of London’s road traffic air and noise pollution on birth weight: retrospective population based cohort study Imperial College. November 2017 https://www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j5299

[10] Danger in the Air. UNICEF, Division of Data, Research and Policy, December 2017   https://www.unicef.org/environment/wp-content/uploads/sites/707/Danger_in_the_Air.pdf

[11] Carrington, Damian. Air pollution harm to unborn babies may be global health catastrophe, warn doctors. Guardian, U.S. Edition December 5th 2017.    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/05/air-pollution-harm-to-unborn-babies-may-be-global-health-catastrophe-warn-doctors

[12]Gonzales, Richard. Keystone Pipeline Oil Spill Reported In South Dakota. NPR November 16th 2017. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/16/564705368/keystone-pipeline-oil-spill-reported-in-south-dakota

[13] NTSB Marine Accident Brief. Grounding of Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit Kulluk NTSB/MAB-15/10 pages 2 and 3

[14] NTSB Marine Accident Brief. Grounding of Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit Kulluk NTSB/MAB-15/10 page 3

[15] Id page 12

[16] Id page 5

[17] Id page 3

[18]C.K. Economist Blog February 17th 2017. Donald Trump signs a law repealing a disclosure rule for oil companies https://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2017/02/big-signing

[19] Gardner, Timothy. Trump administration permits ENI to drill for oil off Alaska. Reuters, November 28th 2017.https://www.reuters.com/article/us-alaska-oil-eni/trump-administration-permits-eni-to-drill-for-oil-off-alaska-idUSKBN1DS33B

[20] https://www.eni.com/en_NA/eni-north-america/eni-profile/corporate-governance/corporate-governance.shtml

[21]Reed, Stanley. Shell and Eni to Be Tried Over $1.3 Billion Nigerian Oil Deal. New York Times. December 20th 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/20/business/energy-environment/shell-eni-italy-nigeria.html

[22] NTSB Marine Accident Brief. Grounding of Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit Kulluk NTSB/MAB-15/10 page 3

[23] Mathew Taylor. $180bn investment in plastic factories feeds global packaging binge. Guardian Tuesday December 26th 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/26/180bn-investment-in-plastic-factories-feeds-global-packaging-binge

[24] James Ayre. Ocean Acidification Increasing Rapidly In Western Arctic Ocean. March 3rd 2017 https://cleantechnica.com/2017/03/03/ocean-acidification-increasing-rapidly-western-arctic-ocean/

[25] Shreya Goswami. If you’re pregnant, the pollution can seriously harm your baby. December 12th 2017. https://www.indiatoday.in/lifestyle/health/story/air-pollution-harmful-baby-pregnancy-exposure-birth-defects-health-lifest-1105517-2017-12-12

How to Prepare an “A,’ and Other Grades: A Tongue in Cheek Look at the Culinary Classification of Grades

Grades are a difficult subject for both faculty and students. For faculty, how do we judge the work of another person? How do we guide students towards excellence in so many different areas, balancing various Western academic requirements while encouraging students to find their own place culturally and conceptually? How do we use grades to motivate students to work harder versus driving them to give up? How do we reward perseverance and hard work as well as excellence? What is fair for students in different circumstances?

For students, how do I meet the expectations of the class? What are my personal strengths and interests and how can I call on them in this class? How much time can I, or do I want to, spend on this assignment? How do I get my point across to the faculty and fellow students? Do I have to give up pieces of myself to get a good grade?

In my classes there are many ways to get an “A’ and the path will be different for each student. Personally, I like to think of grades in culinary terms. We all love food and we all need food to grow and thrive, but we can’t always get or prepare the food we want. So, here is my culinary classification of grades based on some of my culinary experiences.

An “A’ grade is the highest level of excellence: the pinnacle of taste, skill, and nutrition.

  • A gourmet four course meal with a fancy dessert (any cuisine, but for the dessert something decadent with dark chocolate is my preference, in case, like, you wanted to cook for me). However, if you start making me bacon foam or deconstructed something you had better be able to link your theoretical food to real world applications. And if you start telling me that reindeer MUST be cooked such and such a way because Science (or Tradition, or your personal preference) I’m going to ask you to examine and define your theoretical paradigm. Actually, I’ll ask you to do that anyways.
  • Fresh frozen whitefish dipped in seal oil.
  • A culinary fusion of traditional and modern flavors. I once had lemon pepper mikiaq (fermented whale meat) that totally blew my mind, and my taste buds.
  • Just trih (troth, masru, mousefood, Indian potato, Eskimo potato). Simple, basic, but so good and you harvested it yourself.
  • Indian ice cream made with moose meat and ch’aghwah ghwąįį (bone grease) and whipped by hand. Never had it, but the process sounds pretty impressive.

A “B’ grade is still very good and it also can be earned in many ways. I think of a “B’ grade as the comfort food of grades.

  • Moose soup. Now, some will say this is an “A’ and sometimes it is, but your basic moose soup is comforting and warm. Not too fancy, but good to make and eat whenever you need a good meal.
  • Homemade macaroni and cheese. Seriously, I’ve loved it since I was a kid. Don’t judge me.
  • Bella biscuits (You Fort Yukoners know what I mean).
  • That Jell-O and fruit salad your sister always makes for the holidays. Actually, not my favorite, but my husband really likes it.
  • Fry bread. Not the most nutritious, but hard to make right and oh so delicious.   You know you love it.

“C’ grades are ok. Still acceptable, and often the best you can do at that particular time. There’s no shame in that. A “C’ grade is the quick packed lunch, just getting something good in the belly of grades.

  • Pilot bread and jarred salmon. Now, if you jarred the salmon yourself that might be a higher grade, but sometimes you have to just grab what your grandma gave you out of the cupboard and go.
  • A veggie tray that you selected the veggies and chopped yourself with a couple of good dips. If you grabbed a pre-chopped veggie tray from the supermarket I’m going to appreciate the healthy vegetable angle, but I expect a bit more effort.
  • A homemade meat and cheese sandwich with mayo and mustard (the good kind) on store bought bread. Yeah, you slapped it together, but it’s still pretty tasty and gets the job done. Homemade bread may elevate this.

A “D’ grade is not so good, but it does happen occasionally, and there aren’t that many ways to get one. A “D’ grade is the fast food of grades (I expect some people will disagree with me on this).

  • That pre-cut veggie tray from the supermarket. Or the pre-made sandwiches. Or the frozen cheesecake bites. I know they can be great for a potluck, but they definitely aren’t the star and you only do it when you are really short on time.
  • Anything from McDonald’s. Or Taco Bell. Or any of the others. I may like the taste of McDonald’s fries, but they give me a serious stomach ache.

An “F’ grade says either something came up that kept you from putting in effort or you simply couldn’t be bothered. An “F’ grade is the spoiled food of grades.

  • That freezer burned fish from three years ago you found in the corner of your chest freezer that your teenager missed when he was supposed to be cleaning it out last summer.
  • Thanksgiving leftovers a week later. Are they still edible? I don’t want to risk it. This usually happens when you don’t plan to use your leftovers in a timely manner. Yes, this happens to me all the time.

We may disagree about what actually qualifies as an “A,’ “B,’ “C,’ or “D’ grade (I think most of us agree about what makes an “F’). Some of us are all about the flavor. Others care more about how hard it is to prepare or that you harvested it in the correct way. A good meal can be brought low if you use canned peas (for me, anyway). A quick snack can be elevated when you use the wild blueberry jam you jarred last fall. We may want to sit down to a great meal every day or we may only enjoy them once in a while. Every faculty is different and every student is different, but we can all sit down for a good meal at the table together.

What are your favorite foods and where would you put them on the culinary classification of grades?

“Putting the Development Back Into Rural Development: Finding Shared Language.” A guest post by Professor Jenny Bell Jones

Has “development’ somehow become a bad word because of how it has been pursued in Alaska? Do some of us tend to shy away from serious discussions about development because the word has become synonymous with big business, oil and gas and mining and we see ourselves in opposition to these pursuits, believing that they can only bring destruction to rural and Native communities and the lands they depend on? If this is the case it is time for a second look at development and how we approach it because history shows us that development in one form or another has been with us since the dawn of time. It will affect us no matter what we do so if we can control those effects we will be much better off. We cannot expect to control them if we do not participate in the discussions.

Development of some kind is coming to our communities whether we like this or not. The questions we must answer are what kinds of development do we want and how to best attain them? Where do we see our communities twenty or fifty years from now and how do we want to get there? What do people in those communities really want to see in terms of development and how are they going to implement that vision? Can we come to an agreement about what people mean when they say they want development, or that they do not want it?

It is not enough to blindly oppose all “development,’ digging in our heels and refusing to move forward, and we must be realistic about the things we do oppose. This is where discussion comes in; if we oppose something have we really thought through our reasons for opposition? If the development we oppose would put local residents to work, and there are community members who want this, have we come up with a viable alternative? It simply is not sufficient to throw out vague statements about “alternative energy jobs’ if we oppose oil and gas development unless there is some real possibility of those jobs being available.

How can we change the conversation? First we need to be realistic about the future of the communities; if they are to be healthy safe places to live and raise families they will need to have healthy economies. No amount of language revitalization or cultural revival can substitute for economic stability. Only the very smallest most remote communities might be able to contemplate a future dependence on subsistence resources alone and even the people in those communities need some money to get by. It will be “subsistence and’ not “subsistence or’ going into the future and what the “and’ will look like depends on how we approach development and economics in each community. Instead of avoiding development we need to engage with it head on and put our research efforts into identifying and implementing development projects that will actually improve and sustain rural economies.

What do we really need? Is it jobs, is it better infrastructure, cheaper energy, better transportation … is it just one of these things or varying combinations of all of them? What kind of jobs do people in rural communities really want and what changes are they willing to accept in those communities in order to have those jobs? All of these questions and more are ones that Rural Development (RD) majors need to be trying to find answers to as they go through their academic programs.

This is hard work. It involves looking at the money and it involves talking to people with very different views on development from those we may hold dear ourselves. It requires that we learn “new stuff’ about development and the different options that are available. We have to take a long hard look at the community involved to try to figure out what kind of development is right. We have to make sure the people from the community have a space where they can speak honestly about what they want. We have to let go of ideas about all development being “bad’ and instead differentiate clearly between development we want and development we don’t.

Development includes a huge range of opportunities in Alaska, opportunities that can really help build sustainability in rural and Native communities which will in turn allow things like language and culture to thrive. No community survives for long without a functioning economy. For hundreds of years what we call “subsistence’ today formed the economies of Native communities in Alaska but those economies and the technology that supported them were not static; they developed as time went by and new tools became available via trading relationships and invention by community members. Today many communities retain aspects of subsistence as integral parts of their economies but those economies have developed and now include many things that were not there fifty or a hundred years ago. It is those things, some of which have been very positive, that we need to talk about in our development discussions.

Development is not just about ANWR or Pebble Mine or drilling for oil and gas in the Beaufort Sea; it is also about the wood burning boiler and greenhouse at the school in Tok, the wind farm in Kongiganak, mariculture and kelp farming in Southeast and hydroponic farming in Kotzebue. Development is about Igiugig finding a way to recycle so that they can extend the life of the landfill, local guys manufacturing aluminum skiffs in Naknek or running small businesses in Bethel, and small scale hydro projects around the State. It is about sustainable forestry projects, expanded reindeer herding programs, bison ranches, growing industrial hemp for building and other products, and cultivating specialty crops like peonies and Rhodiola Rosea for export.

Development needs infrastructure; better roads, energy efficient homes, high speed internet, cheaper transportation and better access to health care. Development means making sure that communities have proper law enforcement and tribal and local governments have systems in place to prevent corruption. It means finding ways to respond to climate change and mitigate its effects in Native and rural communities. All of these and more must be part of the development conversation and they all provide opportunities for students.

When Congressional delegates and business leaders make sweeping statements about “all Alaska Natives want development’ and “large majorities of Alaskans support development’ they are very likely being truthful, but something important gets lost in that conversation. If “development’ means affordable energy, better schools, more job prospects and safer communities it is probably safe to say that a majority of Alaskans, Native and non-Native are in support. If on the other hand, “development’ means all of the above but only at the expense of the environment and overall quality of life, and the benefits do not accrue to those closest to the development project but instead line the pockets of people far away, then the numbers of those in support are likely to be much smaller. The second kind of development is the colonial style and it would be very interesting to find out how many Alaskans really support that.

We can move away from colonial style development where “natural resources’ are extracted and profits go out of state, and we can move away from development that contributes to climate change but neither of these things will happen if we opt out of the conversation. These things will not go away overnight, and we need to accept that, but they will go away much faster if we are able to bring viable alternatives to the table. As long as those alternatives are lacking, the State will continue to default back to promoting large scale resource extraction because nothing else is on the table that they think will work.

As Rural Development practitioners we must work to bridge the communications gap. Find out what people really want and convey an honest message. Do the kind of surveying that produces accurate data, not the kind that skews answers to fit with political or personal goals.  Be willing to talk to “the other side’ not just with those who share our own position. Study the economics of development and come up with proposals that are feasible. Look beyond the short term profit motives of colonial style development and consider long term schemes that will grow slowly and sustainably over time. If we want our communities to be vibrant healthy places to live in fifty years’ time then our development language and planning needs to reflect that. If the State of Alaska shares that goal then we need to develop shared language on how we will all achieve it and we can only do that by talking with each other.

Listening with your ears and your eyes and your heart

I think that sometimes we listen better when we have to struggle to understand. I know that for myself, one of the reasons I am drawn to cross-cultural life is that combination of sharing a perspective, but coming at it from very different traditions, and having to focus intently on creating shared understanding and meaning. I had an especially powerful experience in this kind of communicating at the Ethnography and Education Symposium in El Paso.

As mentioned previously (see here for our first post and here for Professor Pat’s post on her experiences) In September I went with professors Diane Benson and Pat Sekaquaptewa to the 14th Inter-American Symposium on Ethnography and Education in El Paso, Texas and across the border in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. One of the unique aspects of this symposium is that it is conducted in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Spanish was probably the most common language at the conference; most presentations were in Spanish and the majority of participants spoke Spanish and/or were bilingual or trilingual. While I am fairly proficient in English (we hope!), I know nothing of Spanish or Portuguese so depended on the conference organizers and the kindness of fellow participants to translate.

This worked out wonderfully! In fact, I felt that I sometimes got more out of the Spanish and Portuguese presentations than the English presentations because I was focused so intently on understanding. I found that I could understand some of the Spanish and Portuguese, especially if they were talking about familiar issues and ideas, which they usually were. I could understand the written word a little better and many presenters included the text of their presentations in their PowerPoint slides. I know text heavy PowerPoints are not recommended, but in this case, they were incredibly helpful. Finally, conference organizers and fellow participants were willing to whisper translations to me and other non-Spanish or Portuguese-speaking people, providing a triangulated learning environment where I listened to the spoken word, read the written word, and listened to the translation simultaneously. It was an intensely invigorating learning environment. Indeed, throughout the symposium, I reflected that, while people didn’t speak my language, they spoke my language: la pedagogía crítica, la educacíon holística, descolonizar, epistemología, la autobiographfía critíca, la indignación, el amor…this is the language of my heart.

One of the unexpected themes of the conference was the role of “love’ in education and crossing and living in border spaces. In her keynote entitled “Lengua, aprendizaje y amor: Lo que los jóvenes transculturales, transnacionales y translingüísticos nos pueden enseñar‘ (Language, learning and love: what young transcultural, transnational and translinguistics can teach us), Professor Marjorie Faulstich Orellana discussed her work with children and the role of love as a motivator for learning. She looked at the ways borders, physical, cultural, and linguistic, are built and patrolled and how such boundaries interfere with our ability to enter relationships with openness and to gain understanding. She spoke of the artificial divide between the heart and the mind and the ways academia and other institutions privilege the brain over our hearts and our bodies. She spoke of bringing “love,’ that foundation of human connection, back into what we do and how we do it.

Her discussion ignited a conversation about power, positionality, and the appropriation of discourse over the remainder of the symposium. How can and why should people outside of the power structure respond with love? How can we open up spaces for love in academic settings and how do we protect people for whom the vulnerability of love is a very real risk to their lives and careers? What can you do when, as in Argentina, the government appropriates the discourse of love and uses it against you?

These questions and more wended their way through the conference and continue even now. Just today, Professor Orellana sent a post conference reflection on her talk and experience and shared blog posts where she continues to explore the concept of love in education. I recommend you check out her posts “Talking about love in a time of vitriole” and   “Why love? Some reflections on splitting and healing.”

As for me, I’ve been thinking about the role of love in the research of my students. How can I help them center love in their research? How can I help them articulate their love in a way that honors their cultures and experiences and yet meets their goals within the academy as well? How can I create a space in the academy for them to take the risks necessary to not just acknowledge their love, but openly ground their research in love? Every semester I hope to make the border spaces in my classes broader; to allow my students to re-contextualize knowledge and build their own path to a decolonized education.   This brings me back to that cross-cultural life, that life on the border where we struggle to create shared understanding and meaning.   That border space we occupy together.

“Professor S’s Reflections on Her Presentation at the Conference in El Paso, Texas this September” by DANSRD Professor Pat Sekaquaptewa

The title of the conference was the “14th Inter-American Symposium on Ethnographic Research in Education.’  Initially, I was trying to figure out how “ethnography’ or “the study and systematic recording of human cultures,’ primarily through oral histories, mattered in my own home community and what I could take away from this experience to teach Alaska Native students.   However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the experience in my own tribe, the Hopi Tribe in Arizona, was less one of our own people doing oral histories on our own community, and more a long and famous history of outsiders, especially anthropologists, doing traditional anthropological fieldwork in our communities.
The early anthropologist (think 1800’s)  were intrusive and disrespectful, but the later anthropologists and ethnographers, like Mischa Titiev, Peter Whitely, and Justin Richland, have had a beneficial and even symbiotic relationship with Hopi and Tewa families and communities.   As many of you know, I serve as a tribal appellate justice for my tribe.   The Hopi Appellate Courts are often called upon to decide questions of Hopi constitutional and custom law – this has often included referring to the very careful documentation of Mischa Titiev on the Village of Old Oraibi in the 1930’s, in addition to the introduction of traditional expert witnesses testimony from the villages.   Later, Peter Whitely worked with the Village of Bacavi to undertake his own academic research, but he also committed his time to research and write a second book on the history of the village at the request of the village.   Finally, anthropologist and lawyer, Justin Richland, also a dear friend and colleague of mine, sits as a fellow tribal justice on the Hopi Appellate Court, and also assists with the research and funding needs of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office.   Consequently, I have really come to value both the training, skills, and work of my non-Hopi colleagues.   They work with us on our priorities and we get great things done together.
All that said, one of the main threads of the El Paso conference was this idea of “(De)Coloniality.’  This concept comes from the work of Walter Mignolo and is described in his article “Geopolitics of Sensing and Knowing, On (De)Coloniality, Border Thinking, and Epistemic Disobedience.’  In order for me to make sense of the concept of decoloniality, I had to tether it to real life experience, and for me that took the form of judging on the Hopi high court.
Ultimately, applying Mignolo’s definitions to this experience immediately raised troubling possibilities.   First, he defines “decoloniality’ and “border thinking/sensing/doing’ as an assertion that western democracy and socialism are not the only two models to orient our thinking and doing, but the communal is another option.   At first, I am down with this — what is more communal than the Hopi matrilineages and village life.   Then Mignolo defines his “border epistemology.’  He talks about delinking from, in our case capitalism and political economy, and suggests that we go to “the reservoir of the ways of life and modes of thinking that have been disqualified by Christian theology since the Renaissance.’  I think, o.k., can do, the Hopi clans have been doing their own thing for 10,000 years or so, we still live on our aboriginal homelands, and most Hopis when I was a kid were still fluent in Hopi, the ceremonies still go and there is still a strong sense of Hopi worldview, duties and obligations, and values.   I read on.   Then Mignolo says “There are two choices once you delink, you either accept the humiliation of being inferior to those who decided that you are inferior or you assimilate, and to assimilate means that you accepted your inferiority and [that you are] resigned to playing the game that is not yours, but that has been imposed upon you.’  I think whaatt??? … I spent years losing my Hopi accent, getting good grades, struggled through 4 plus years of culture shock and barely passing grades at Stanford, nearly killed myself getting through law school at Berkley, and now he is telling me NOT to assimilate???   What about my entire tribe that adopted the U.S. government’s boilerplate tribal constitution in 1936 and which has set up an elected tribal council with a western style adversarial tribal court system, with its written tribal codes and court opinions?   Not to mention Indian boarding schools.   And I am a tribal judge reinforcing this system – working with the colonizing anthropologists!   Sure, the system may have once been imposed, but now they are our institutions and we are in control of them — we are in the driver’s seat.   Then, I read the Mignolo’s third option — “border thinking.’  And I wonder, is that what we are doing at Hopi border thinking?
To hear my answer, you should attend our re-presentations at DANSRD later this semester — TBD.   My revised presentation title is: “Dialogues (Other’s Research & Judicial Deliberations) & Decoloniality — with a question mark — in the Native Homelands (Others’ Borderlands) & Implications for Teaching Native Students.’  I really hope to see you there!

Expanding Our Horizons: Attending the 14th Inter-American Symposium on Ethnography and Education

Last week we (Professors Jennie Carroll, Diane Benson, and Pat Sekaquaptewa) presented at the 14th Inter-American Symposium on Ethnography and Education in El Paso, Texas and across the border in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. The theme of this year’s symposium was “Crossing Borders: Disciplines, Languages/Cultures, and Spaces/Places.’ The symposium brings together scholars and students from North, Central, and South America and was conducted in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. We presented a panel entitled “Occupying the border: expanding spaces for Indigenous conversations in higher education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.’

The Symposium was amazing! We came back with expanded horizons and new knowledge to share with our colleagues and students. Each of us will be writing an individual post about our experiences and we are going to organize a presentation of our panel for faculty and students at UAF as soon as we recover from the travel to El Paso and back. In the meantime, here are a few photos of us enjoying learning and sharing with students and faculty from across the Americas.

Celebrating after our panel presentation with UTEP students.
On our way onto the UTEP Campus
Symposium organizers.
Enjoying a Mexican dinner with friends.

RU WREEDIN N WRIGHTIN ENUFF? A Guest Post by Professor Jenny Bell Jones

WHAAAT? Someone put this c*** on an academic blog … and that someone is an Emeritus Professor …REALLY… POOR…???

OK, now that I have your attention let’s get serious. I am going to “talk story’ about reading and writing and how they are intimately connected as well as why it really matters that we do them both well. If you have ever taken any of my classes you will know I assign a lot of reading. Some of you have complained about the reading assignments; “too long’, “too many’, “too advanced, difficult, complicated etc.’ If you are in my 100 level courses you may think I’m picking on you with the readings but please put these thoughts to rest … I get exactly the same complaints from graduate students about too much reading! And yes, they complain about too much writing as well.

First things first; reading and writing are intimately connected. You will not be able to write well unless you spend time reading the types of documents you hope to write. If you want to become a judge and write legal decisions you will need to read a lot of them. Want to write reports about global warming? Better start reading what is already out there. Interested in obtaining funding for language and culture revitalization? You will need to read about successful projects that have been undertaken and look at the proposals that were submitted. If your dream is to write a historical novel then I really recommend you read some of those before you start on your own.

Reading is not easy for everyone; I am dyslexic and I read very slowly and had to really work hard to improve my speed and comprehension when I started college at 50. After I sobered up back in 1982 I found I had pretty much lost the ability to read so I retaught myself by reading every novel Louis L’Amour ever wrote. Definitely not academic material but it got me going and the repetition was very helpful. Starting with something that was easy gave me confidence to go on to harder stuff. Today I still take a break from more serious reading by picking up a good historical novel every so often and I’ve learned a lot about the world from them in addition to increasing my reading speed.

Writing is hard; if it was easy we would not need to spend years learning how to do it correctly. Notice I used the word “correctly’ … this is very important but a lot of us tend to ignore it. Some of us struggle with the idea that we need to write correctly because we feel that the requirement for “correct’ writing is a colonial imposition that we should not have to comply with. I fought with this as an undergraduate as I confronted the thinking that writing correctly would somehow make me “less Native’ until I really thought it through. Yes, writing came to us from colonization but it is a tool and a very useful one and, like any other tool, it should be used properly. We would never try to load a 30.06 rifle with 30.30 shells nor would we try to use straight gas in the chainsaw (or if we do we will only do it once) so why would we allow ourselves to write sloppily? We don’t misuse the other tools that colonization brought so why would we misuse something as important as writing, the tool that allows us to communicate with people all over the world?

We are not “decolonizing’ by writing poorly; poor writing equals poor communication and it makes the writer look bad whether they come from a colonized population or not. I will spend hours helping students whose writing skills need improvement, and I am very sympathetic to the challenges of learning to write in a language other than ones heritage language, but I have very little time for those who continue to write poorly using the excuse that they are decolonizing by doing so. If we want to convey a positive message about decolonization it helps if our audience can read and understand our work.

We also need to be cautious about “writing the way we talk’ … there is a place for that but usually not in academic writing because if writing the way we talk means writing in a local dialect only a very limited number of readers will understand us. Here is an example: a number of years ago I was sitting in the bus station in Edinburgh, Scotland, waiting for a bus to Aberdeen and struck up a conversation with a mother and young son who were going to Dundee. When the little boy heard I lived in Alaska he looked up at me and asked “Witsit likeby yeurbut’. I understood him because I used to speak a similar dialect but most of you would have had no idea that he was asking “What is it like where you live?’ Unless we are actually writing about the use of local dialects and want to provide an example we should translate before we write so that we can reach the widest possible group of readers.

If we want to write using a heritage language then we need to provide a good translation unless we want to limit our audience to other readers of that language. Would it be nice if our readers took the time to learn our language? Yes, of course it would, but the reality is that most people will not, so we need to consider the goal of our writing. If we want to reach a wide audience then using a language that a large number of people can read and understand is very helpful. People today are probably not disrespecting us or our language by not learning it; we all only have so much time to learn new things and spending a lot of time to learn a language that we may never actually use is not an option for most of us.

Is there ever a time when it is OK to write sloppily? In the humble opinion of an old lady the answer is no. Like it or not, others form opinions about us based on what they see us do. Hunters who do not care for their catch properly are generally not well regarded when others see spoiled meat. Fish and meat allowed to go to waste show disrespect for the animals that gave themselves. Misuse of tools and transportation equipment indicates carelessness. Sloppy writing suggests that we don’t care very much how we are perceived by others and that we have not taken time to do it right. We also run the risk of having our writing misunderstood by the recipient. We are disrespecting ourselves and our readers when we do not take the time to make corrections even when doing so is very easy.
What to do to improve? Yes, you knew they were coming … the bullet points …

Practice reading. Don’t just read the required readings, add others by using suggested reading lists and reference lists. Read something several times if you need to.
Don’t limit your reading choices to authors you know you will agree with. Make a point of including works by writers with different backgrounds and opposing points of view.
Set aside time to read without distraction. Forget all that nonsense about multi-tasking. Turn off the devices and the TV.
Read for fun. At least once every month or two read something that has nothing to do with school requirements.
Dump the excuses and make the effort. Reading is a visual skill, one that connects the eyes and the mind so, if you are a visual learner, don’t let that deter you from reading.
Practice writing. We don’t give you all those writing assignments because we love grading. Practice makes perfect and the more you write the better you will become provided you take note of our corrections and suggestions.
Get a style guide and learn how to use it. Ask someone to help if you do not understand how to use. I did not do this and have always regretted it.
Take the time when you write an email and always use spell check. Consider who your recipient is and address them respectfully…’Hey Dude’ is not a respectful way to address an instructor. If you are in doubt about the academic title, “Professor James’ is always a good default. Be very careful about forwards and carbon copying so that you do not include unintended recipients.
Use the advice of Dr. Emil Notti and “Be determined’. We may not all become brilliant writers but we can all become proficient if we work at it and proficiency is what counts.

In closing, reading and writing are the weapons of the modern warriors. Use them both to the best extent of your ability and do everything you can to become expert marksmen with these weapons. And remember… this piece was written by someone who quit school at fourteen and never completed 8th grade. If I can do it you can too!

Welcome to the DANSRD Blog

We are the Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development, of the College of Rural and Community Development at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This blog will be a platform for dialogues about issues specifically relevant to rural Alaska and Alaska Natives, and more broadly to communities in the Arctic and Circumpolar North and Indigenous communities throughout the world.

The department hosts two distinct, but complementary programs, the Alaska Native Studies BA and the Rural Development BA and MA, and our faculty have expertise and interest across a broad range of subjects from Alaska Native arts and cultures to sustainable community development to the law as it relates to Indigenous peoples. It can be difficult to articulate the breadth of our programs and faculty. Yes, we have an Alaska Native and Indigenous focus, but we also focus on development of communities throughout Alaska and the Circumpolar North. Yes, we have an Alaska and Circumpolar North focus, but we also look to learn from development experiences and processes throughout the world, particularly with Indigenous peoples and rural areas. In everything we do we try to bring a unique approach that encourages students and faculty to bring their own cultural foundations to understand and solve broader social and development issues. We have a passion for communities, a passion for positive change, and a commitment to helping students apply what they learn to make a better future.

We will post on department activities and events, teaching techniques and issues with our unique style of blended and distance education, and cultural, social, and economic development issues relevant to Alaska and the Circumpolar North and to rural Indigenous people throughout the world.

Ultimately, we hope that this blog will become a forum for dialogues across the many communities that share our interests and a space for faculty, students, and community members to share their experiences. Welcome!